Landscape restoration expensive, exhausting – essential

Lessons from 5 continents in GLF Kyoto Act III

On a sustainable tea plantation in Java, Indonesia. Mokhamad Edliadi, CIFOR
16 May 2019
Sandra Cordon

For more on GLF Kyoto, read about Act I and Act II.

Landscape restoration is extremely expensive, very challenging, context-specific – and absolutely essential to ensuring livelihoods, fighting climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

That was the conclusion from multiple panel discussions during Act III of the Global Landscapes Forum Kyoto (GLF Kyoto) event entitled “Climate, Landscapes and Lifestyles: It is Not Too Late.” Running for 24 hours that from 12–14 May across time zones, the event brought together some of the best minds from science, business, international development, indigenous peoples, civil society as well as youth leaders working on landscape solutions to the globe’s biggest problems.

Following a montage of climate change videos, special addresses and art (Act I) and plenaries held in Kyoto alongside the 49th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Act II); Act III of the forum comprised a series of discussions livestreamed from Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands, British Columbia and Brazil. Here’s what happened.

Landscape restoration expensive, exhausting – essential
The Kannopi project in Indonesia is tailored to the local surrounds in its efforts to support local business through sustainable production of forest products like coconut and honey. Aris Sanjaya, CIFOR


A key message from the final leg of the event was the necessity of tailoring solutions to local contexts. That requires keeping work firmly rooted in the needs and ideas from the communities and stakeholders who are directly involved; yet ensuring solutions can be scalable to larger levels.

“I’m increasingly convinced that we need to have a landscape approach because that’s the level at which decision-making happens,” said Navin Ramankutty, a professor and research chair at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“But at the same time, we also need to realize that different landscapes have different biocapacities, different abilities to meet the needs for the people,” Ramankutty added.

Working within the context of local political, economic and cultural conditions “is king,” said Tirion Keatinge, an agroforestry business and project developer at reNature Foundation. He spoke during a session featuring speakers under the age of 35, livestreamed from the Netherlands’ Wageningen University.

“You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you’re not working with what is there, you’re not going to succeed in achieving what you want to achieve,” added Keatinge, whose recent work in Indonesia showed him that contextual conditions “define the possibilities of what you can do in a certain place.”

Restoration work is expensive, and decision-makers will open their wallets wide to support this work only if they’re encouraged by success stories, Joyce Msuya, UN Environment acting executive director, told participants at the discussion in Nairobi, focused on the new U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Landscape restoration expensive, exhausting – essential
Restoration comes through planting native species such as Gnetum, a tropical evergreen, in Cameroon. Ollivier Girard, CIFOR

“We need to push for greater financing,” Msuya said. “Only 3 percent of public climate finance investments are currently channeled into agriculture, forestry, land-use and natural resource management. This is way too little, given the daunting challenges we have.”

“We need to showcase the incredible opportunities that we create when we restore ecosystems,” said Msuya, citing IUCN estimates that restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 will produce USD 9 trillion worth of ecosystem benefits. “Restoring nature is as much a tool of economic empowerment as any other strategy economists will place before us.”

Making a “business case” for restoration investment is crucially important, and it can require convincing government and community leaders of the value they’ll get from committing resources, added Tony Simons, director general of World Agroforestry.

He described for the Nairobi session his winning pitch for a project involving the Sri Lankan government: “The thing that really got the minister of finance and the president was: ‘Land health is national wealth.’ And they could connect that to national and household and business opportunities.”

Act II ended with a Portuguese-language panel on sustainable fashion, focusing on the sentiment carried across Acts I and II that individual actions – such as changing our consumption patterns, can make a difference – whether that be through nutrition, fashion, transportation, or ending plastic and food waste.

The devastating impact that overconsumption is having – not only on the planet, but on personal wellbeing – has to be addressed, warned Malik Tabrizi Dasoo, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Wageningen during the youth session.

“We eat too much. We buy too much. We waste too much. We must change the system and simplify it,” he said.

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